Math—it often comes across as an abstract textbook exercise, especially in algebra, geometry, and calculus. Manipulate variables; formulate a proof; find derivatives, etc. What’s the purpose?
Well, math is a way of describing the quantities and consistencies that God created and sustains all around us. Here’s a tiny glimpse at how.
Describing the Consistencies of Creation
Gravity—no doubt you’ve studied it in science. Yet did you realize that it can be described with math? Using letters to stand for values (algebra!), we can write the law of gravity in a simple, concise way.
Planetary orbits are another example of math in Creation. We can use geometry and algebra (along with calculus!) to describe the consistent way God guides the planets—and their moons—in their orbits. The vast distances between and huge sizes of the planets (which we use math to describe) are mind boggling to us—yet God created and sustains them over the vast distances of space.
When we look at the subatomic world, we again find that math helps us describe the intricacies of God’s Creation, such as the atoms that make up matter. While atoms are millions of times smaller than a millimeter (notice I just used measuring!), math helps us describe them, too. We can count the number of electrons, protons, and neutrons that make them up … and the even tinier quarks inside the protons and neutrons. We can use spherical geometry to help us describe the way the electrons orbit—the list of math applications continues.
Math applies everywhere. Consider for a moment the sounds you hear. Using algebra and calculus, we can mathematically describe those sounds as waves (and thus develop ways to record and play back sounds).
Now, here is an important point to ponder: It would be pointless to use math to describe gravity, planetary orbits, the orbits of electrons, sound waves, etc., if they changed without reason all the time. Yet day after day, year after year, gravity works in a consistent, predictable way. So predictable, in fact, that we can use letters to stand for masses (the m1 and m2), the distance between those masses (the r), etc., and compute what the force (F) on any given object will be. It should make you wonder why Creation is that consistent.
Creation is so consistent because a consistent, faithful God created it and sustains it. Jeremiah 33:25-26 tells us that God has “appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” and uses that fact to remind His people that He will be faithful to His covenant with them. The consistencies around us should be reminding us that God is faithful and keeps His Word. Just as He is faithful to keep the “ordinances of heaven and earth” in place, He’ll be faithful to everything else He’s promised!
It’s only because we live in a logical and consistent universe that we can use math in God’s Creation. And Creation is only logical and consistent because God is still keeping the “ordinances of heaven and earth” in place—He is a faithful God we can trust, and the fact that math can be used to describe Creation is a continual reminder of His faithfulness.
Seeing God’s Handiwork and the Fall
As we use math to describe God’s Creation, it often sheds light on God’s handiwork. Consider a sunflower. The seeds in it are arranged according to two spirals, and the ratio of the number of spirals in each direction is always approximately the same, enabling the optimal number of seeds to fit in a sunflower. Math helps us see how God designed the sunflower to reproduce efficiently!
Yet while God’s original Creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), sin brought death into the world (Romans 5:12) … and we now see death and suffering as we look at God’s Creation using math. For example, using algebra and exponents or logarithms we can describe the relationship between the magnitude (M) and the energy (E) of an earthquake as 1011.8+1.5M=E.
Sunflowers and earthquakes are just a few examples of how looking at math in God’s Creation shows us both evidence of God’s care in Creation and evidence of the Fall. We live in a broken world, yet still see God’s wisdom and care on display.
Far from being an empty textbook exercise, math is a way of describing the orderly way God holds Creation together—a consistency that points us to God’s faithfulness.
As you study math, let its ability to work outside of a textbook cause you to grow in awe of our triune God. Hebrews 1:3 reminds us Jesus is “upholding all things by the word of His power.” He does this so faithfully we can describe Creation with math. We serve a powerful Savior we can trust completely.
Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the author. Originally appeared in the Homeschool Supplement 2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.